Police have launched an investigation after what is believed to be a drone hit a passenger jet landing at Heathrow, prompting calls from Labour for the Government to 'wake up' to the problem.
The Civil Aviation Authority also responded with a warning that drone operators could be jailed for flouting the rules.
The Metropolitan Police said a pilot on an inbound flight from Geneva reported that he believed a drone had struck the aircraft.
The flight landed safely at Terminal 5 after the incident but it transpired that an object, believed to be a drone, had struck the front of the aircraft.
Aviation police based at Heathrow are investigating the incident. No arrests have yet been made. The CAA said it was aware of a possible incident.
In a statement it said: ‘Safety is our first priority. Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations. The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe. It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.
‘Drone users have to understand that when taking to the skies they are potentially flying close to one of the busiest areas of airspace in the world - a complex system that brings together all manner of aircraft including passenger aeroplanes, military jets, helicopters, gliders and light aircraft.’
Shadow aviation minister Richard Burden MP said the incident was no surprise.
‘For months we have seen a rising number of near misses and Labour has consistently urged the Government to wake-up to the problem. We know drones pose a very real threat to public safety and we should learn the lessons from places like the US which have been quick to introduce a registration process.
‘Ministers have been aware of the issue since 2013. We need action but we are still yet to see even a consultation on the options. This now must happen as soon as possible. In the meantime the Government must ensure that drone owners are fully educated and that existing rules are being enforced.’